Federal Aviation Administration executives had grim reports on the airline industry during Wednesday’s meeting with Congress.
The FAA representatives cited serious problems with budgeting, deadlines and management of its billion dollar upgrade of the air traffic control system, all of which are affecting the agency’s multi-stage NextGen effort.
NextGen was developed to modernize all of the Cold-War era flight systems by the year 2025. Inadequate performance and goal tracking of NextGen is causing panic around the industry and on Capitol Hill. Congress has already allotted $3 billion dollars to the upgrade.
FAA Inspector General Calvin Scovel noted that the higher level executives haven’t even developed a master schedule to help plan and manage NextGen. “Programs are left with no clear end state,” added Scovel.
Delays and costs are a problem. The FAA’s En Route Automatic Modernization (ERAM) system, designed to provide communications and generate display data for air traffic controllers, is about five years behind schedule and as much as $500 million over budget, according to a study by Mitre Corp.
“There’s no question that reduced funding will cause delays, and that the delays will cost us more in the end in terms of lost benefits as well as increased costs of deployment,” said FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta, an Obama appointee. “In the end, to be able to meet the timeline set out, the President’s funding level is really what we need to get us there.”